Who’s the prettiest of them all?

Here I am, trying really hard to be pretty.

 

There’s this great yoga teacher here in Austin that I studied with regularly for a year or so about a year ago.  In the classroom, she is very engaging and knowledgeable, she puts together a killer sequence and she has a syllabus that takes her students on a journey through the body and how it works together that is so satisfying and great.  She has encouraging words and a large student following.  In my mind, she is “making it” as a yoga teacher and I really like her…as a teacher.

But there’s some misconnect when I try to have a conversation with her. I’ve been mystified by this because I consider myself pretty good at engaging and talking with people and I think I’m pretty friendly.  But she doesn’t even notice and my mind/ego doesn’t know what to do with this except to come up with a list of reasons I really don’t like her and then tack on some self-denigrating explanations as to why every conversation I have with her is awkward and uncomfortable–for me at least.

There are all sorts of reasons a person might not want to talk.  I get it. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that this thing with Yoga Teacher is no big deal and no, I don’t get that emotional about it and no, I don’t care that much.   But I had to admit something to myself earlier today, I want her to like me and it bothers me that she doesn’t.  When I saw her in the parking lot before class this morning I tried really hard to get her to pay attention to me.  I walked her way and immediately started asking about some facebook post of hers and her classes and her life.  It was eager, but not excessive—less than 2 minutes, as we walked from parking lot to studio.   We got inside and I was wrapping up my nervous/like-me-please chatter when she saw someone else she knew.  I was mid-sentence and thought she was listening when she turned her face to the left to start a conversation with someone else.  I’m not kidding. Right over my shoulder.  It was like I wasn’t even there.

In that moment of thinking we were connecting but then seeing I was being ignored, I had this unpleasant feeling arise.  It was the feeling of not being pretty.  Now, I need to be clear.  This wasn’t a thought.  It’s not like I go around asking my magic mirror how pretty I am all the time.  I don’t think about prettiness that much these days, actually. Whatever this pretty-thing was was a deep memory-feeling that I can’t explain, but I sure did recognize.  It was from a time somewhere back there in the old days when I thought that pretty and being noticed went together and I tried really hard to be both.  I’m talking about childhood.  Maybe middle school, definitely high school—imagine makeup and high bangs and boys and Cielo Vista Mall.  That old stuff bubbled up right there in the middle of my 36-year-old morning.  It was this sense that even though I try, I just might not be pretty enough, and it didn’t feel good.

 

Isn’t that amazing?

 

I go around not thinking that I even care that much and then I have the “I’m not pretty” feeling. As the reaction settled down, I became quite mystified and fascinated by how my mind and my imagination and my memory are all working together to remind me that I want/have wanted some validation from the outside in this specific way and I didn’t get it and this is how it feels/felt.   I so wanted YT to take me onto her lap, look me in the eyes and tell me I’m actually pretty enough… for what, exactly?  I don’t even know.  But there it was—the wanting and not getting.

Being able to just notice that she triggered a whole bunch of the not pretty feeling in me was something. And what happened after that was even more interesting.  Somehow, I  managed to stay with the interest in my not pretty feeling instead of obsessing over her rudeness and getting angry. (This is remarkable for me.) And in class,  I didn’t go through Surya Namaskar A thinking that I was unworthy. I did  give myself a little more time in child’s pose because I thought that the kid in me who was struggling with not feeling pretty might need some encouragement and gentleness.  And then, in the day that followed, I eventually found a tiny opening to let YT not be my best friend and still allow myself to like her as a person and appreciate what she offers our yoga community.  Yoga feelings are beautiful and hard and messy.  I’m trying to let more of an opening happen there, too.

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23 thoughts on “Who’s the prettiest of them all?

  1. amanda, what is it with your way of nailing these deep emotional states that so resonate with me??? please don’t stop doing it. i get these awesome aha moments every time i read one of your posts! god, how i empathize with the not pretty feeling!!! it sort of bleeds over into not smart, not interesting, not cool…all manifestations of not wanted. and then i try way too hard to convince said person evoking said not-ness (as well as myself) that i am i am i am those things…making me seem all the more pathetic and desperate…so impressed with the outcome, though…really made me think of eckhart tolle’s whole thing about “watching the thinker” – not falling victim to the mind and its games and all that. anyway, gee whiz, i love reading you.

    1. Ann! It’s crazy how a regular thing can feel so serious on one day and so regular on another…”watching the thinker” is a beautiful way of putting it. Yoga says that the mind responds depending on the state it is in— agitated mind= not pretty feeling, balanced and happy =not bothered at all, and when we can notice what state we are in, we have some insight. We can watch the thinker. Eventually we can also notice what helps ourselves to be in balance so the mind has a better chance at responding from a true place rather than a reactive place. (You can see why I really need the yoga…)

  2. In the brief moment you described, you were the loveliest of all. Beauty reflects mindful attention, I think. You were mindful… and you are lovely, all the way around.

    This was not your ugly moment… it was your instructor’s.

    1. Meredith, your reply made me tear up. And, if I’m ever in a street fight, I want you on my side. You are loyal. I have to say, though…I think that both sides of this exchange were just really human. I’ve been on the dismissing side before. I’ve been dismissed. YOu know what I mean?

      1. Sure. And how cool of you to say, “hey, I’ve stood in those shoes, too.” You know… not everyone is as zen with their life as they convey in their practice; that’s why reading your column is so refreshing.

  3. Excellent svadyaya practice, Amanda. And the excellent part is that it wasn’t judgmental. If we get judgmental in our self-observation it just clouds the vision and pulls us off topic. You did some good, clear observation of what was coming up. And then you shared your findings with the rest of us for our benefit. So excellent teaching as well. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, David. I’ve been really curious about the vrttis that Patanjali talks about in YS 1.4-11. They offer some good food for svadyaya practice. These 5 functions of the mind are at play in combination all the time: Pramana- correct perception, Viparyaya- incorrect perception, Vikalpa- the minds ability to create and imagine things and Smrti- memories. There’s also Nidra– dreamless sleep when the mind is “off.” I find that after something like this comes up– something emotional and flooding, it’s interesting to try to understand which of these were active or dominant. Was there a misunderstanding? Was I reacting to a painful memory? Was I imagining something that wasn’t there? I find it gives a lot more space for the other person to just be human and for me to understand myself a little more clearly.

      1. Hmmm, well, I guess I ask myself why being (or feeling) that way is important to me, and whether being pretty or not has any effect on my accomplishments.

        I don’t really have a good answer to this!

  4. Hello Amanda, Thanks for stopping by my blog. I love your post, BTW. I have quite a few of these “Blast from the Past” moments lately. Good for you to be able to sit through it. All the best, Ramona

    1. Ramona, your blog is honest and reflective and I have so enjoyed it. I look forward to reading more about your parenting, yoga, noisy park/quiet river experiences.

  5. Hey, thanks for stopping by my site. I must be the least flexible person on the planet, but am really hoping doing a little bit of yoga every day will help to loosen me up a bit. One bit of my challenge I’m going to keep doing!

    1. Best of luck. I love a good challenge. But consider yourself warned, yoga starts as a challenge in flexibility and then somehow makes its way into lots of other aspects of life that might also need some of that.

  6. This is a great post. I’ve felt exactly this way, though without identifying it like this, and have stopped taking classes with that yoga teacher. I admire how you’ve still been able to take classes with her. (Although I think she was unspeakably rude to you – and I think part of being a yoga teacher is knowing how to listen, since how can we listen to our bodies and the bodies of our students if we can’t listen to the words coming out of each other’s mouths? But regardless of how *she* acted, your response is really great.)

    1. I really appreciate your comment, Rox, because it gives me a chance to follow-up on this post. A little after publishing, I had a message from Yoga Teacher (who was a student in this particular class) asking if I was talking about her in the post. With a bit of a cringe, I admitted that she was said YT and offered my # so we could talk if she wanted to. Later, she called and we had the chance to listen to each other speak about what this moment/post brought up for each of us. She was honest, vulnerable and reflective during this rather uncomfortable conversation—very real. After we got off the phone, I was struck by her willingness to connect with me about this, talk about that morning’s moment (I could totally relate to her side of things, too) and not just let it pass by. I kind of wanted to hide behind a rock and it would have been easy for her to not ask and just let dis-ease fester, but she didn’t… I didn’t either (because of some coaxing) and I am in a better place because of it. Maybe she is, too. Basically, I just want to offer some Mad props to YT for being a yogini of substance, self-reflection and honest communication.

      1. OK, that’s pretty awesome. Scary, for sure, but great that you were able to connect and talk. When I have an experience like that, it’s so hard to remember that I don’t know what happened to the other person that day or that week – awesome yoga teachers are real people too and can have bad mornings, but it can be so hard to see it from the other person’s perspective when I feel slighted. It’s great that you were both able to communicate about it and understand each other better.

  7. Thanks Amanda- great post….I too am amazed at my inner need for approval….and how hard it is to observe it and nurture myself through it as you did so well! I am also becoming more concious of how I can relate to my kids and give them that feeling of being OK without them needing to seek external approval? I still don’t have the answers and I am not sure how much of it is biologically within all of us ( do we all have that fear of not being good enough?) or is it from our childhoods?? Many puzzling questions!!!

    1. Mmmm just wanted to add that recently I had a guy in a parenting class I was running that gave off (to me) the worst body language and I spent large chunks of time worrying about why he wasn’t engaged, what had we said that had put him off etc etc……when at the end of the class he gave some really good feedback!!! It was an eye opener to me that we can so easily interpret how another behaves as negative towards us yet so often we don’t know the full context, what else is going on for them, their insecurities etc. I’m so glad you got to talk it out with the YT, if only we could all do that! You have given me lots to think about as I go off to my ceramics class where I often feel ‘ desperately seeking approval’ from my non-approval giving teacher!!! Cheers…. : )

      1. Wow! Parenting, yoga, ceramics…. we have a lot in common, Sara. That need for approval and judgment of other people you mentioned is so closely linked, right? I love that you are actively working to help your kids to be aware of this. The bonus in that is that you get to delve deeply into this approval/judgment thing for yourself and get clear on what to do. Parenting/teaching has a way of doing that.

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